Bulls

Bulls ready to Rip and run... to a title?

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Bulls ready to Rip and run... to a title?

Based on his past few seasons in Detroit, if you're not excited about the Bulls' looming addition of Richard Hamilton, that can be excused. Conversely, if you're most vivid memories of "Rip" are from his heyday with the championship-contending Pistons, it's understandable if you're pretty fired up about the veteran shooting guard potentially coming to Chicago.

But as for Hamilton's actual impact in the Windy City, expect the Coatesville, Pa. native to be rejuvenated as he's on a title contender -- as opposed to the past couple of lottery-bound, turmoil-ridden campaigns in Motown -- although it's unlikely that at 33-years-old (34 in February), he can match his prior All-Star level production. Nor is that necessary.

The 14.1 points per game he averaged last season was his lowest total since his debut year in the league, but on a Bulls team desperate for perimeter firepower, even slightly lower scoring numbers would be welcome. Hamilton is no longer quite the efficient shooter he once was, but his 38.2 percent shooting from three-point range a year ago (above his career 34.7 percent mark) would significantly help a team with few consistent deep threats, though it should be noted that the University of Connecticut product is a more of a mid-range specialist.

The spindly wing isn't necessarily the shot creator the Bulls seemed to lack alongside Derrick Rose last season, but his perpetual motion without the ball in his hands, a la Reggie Miller, is almost as effective as any dribble-breakdown artist, not to mention a severe irritant to opposing defenders who grow tired of the chase. Think about how Kyle Korver runs off screens for three-pointers: Hamilton would likely do much of the same, but unlike Korver, he's much more of a threat to put the ball on the floor and capitalize when the defense closes out too aggressively.

While it can't be argued that Hamilton is a superior individual defender than swingman Ronnie Brewer or erstwhile starter Keith Bogans -- if, for whatever reason, Hamilton doesn't come to Chicago, could the Bulls, faced with an increasingly shallow free-agent pool, decide to exercise their team option on Bogans by the fast-approaching Dec. 19 deadline? -- he's a solid team defender, having been part of one of the league's best units in recent memory in Detroit. Additionally, his toughness, experience, winning credentials (as Rose noted Sunday, he won an NCAA title at UConn and had to be pretty good to be recruited there in the first place, but unfortunately came up short during his high school days, losing a Pennsylvania state final in a showdown with some guy named Kobe) and perhaps most importantly, the respect factor that he brings to the table should benefit the Bulls immensely.

The acquisition of Hamilton alone might not be the move to put the Bulls over the hump -- with the loss of Kurt Thomas (who provided similar experience and toughness, along with a reformed enforcer's mentality, physical low-post defense, valuable pick-and-pop shooting and bone-crushing screens that were often the only way to free up Rose, aside from his own scintillating dribble moves), the organization's under-the-radar search for a replacement defensive-minded veteran big man with a semblance of scoring ability shouldn't be overlooked -- but it at least addresses several needs.

Regardless, Hamilton, expected to be in Chicago this week, assuming he clears waivers Wednesday, doesn't need to be a savior; there's already one of those on the team. He just needs to be Rip.

Wendell Carter knows vet teammate Robin Lopez will 'have part of the blueprint for me'

Wendell Carter knows vet teammate Robin Lopez will 'have part of the blueprint for me'

Robin Lopez has played for five different teams in 10 NBA seasons, but not for lack of being a good teammate.

The 29-year-old veteran has been a positive presence in the locker room year in and year out, and especially during a trying 2017-18 in which playing time was scarce.

Lopez, making way for minutes from Cristiano Felicio, appeared in just 64 games, and played 113 minutes in seven games after the All-Star break. But he continued his role as a conssumate teammate and maintained a positive attitude, something that wasn't lost on his teammates.

Now entering a contract year, Lopez is expected to have a role for the Bulls but again will be mentoring another young big, Bulls' first round pick Wendell Carter Jr.

"I think it’s going to be a lot of fun. I’ve heard plenty of stories about Robin, seen them first hand. It’s going to be exciting just to get to meet him, get to learn from, being in the league for 10 years," Carter said at his introductory press conference on Monday. "It’s someone that will have part of the blueprint for me."

Veterans have long been an important part of a rookie's acclimation to the league. Lopez was has been teammates with a pair of impressive rookies in Anthony (with the New Orleans Hornets) and Kristaps Porzingis (with the New York Knicks).

Those players were certainly destined for greatness. But having a veteran presence in Lopez had to have helped in the early stages of their careers.

Fred Hoiberg mentioned as much on Friday in how he's seen Lopez from a teammate perspective.

"I think Robin is the perfect guy for Wendell to learn from. You look at what has happened our last few years with young players – with Bobby Portis, with Cristiano Felicio – and Robin is so instrumental," Hoiberg said. When you have a guy on the floor who can teach these guys the ropes, it’s so beneficial.

"I look back on my career, I had Reggie Miller and Chris Mullin, Hall of Fame type players. I learned so much more from them than I did from the  coaches that I played for. Robin is going to be terrific for those players. He’s going to beat the hell out of them on days, and he’s going to be there to support them as well.”

Draft night highlighted the unfulfilling feeling of this past Bulls season

Draft night highlighted the unfulfilling feeling of this past Bulls season

The door has officially been closed on the 2017-18 season for the Chicago Bulls, and the word that most comes to mind is “unfulfilling.”

Or maybe even “indistinguishable.”

Draft night was supposed to be a culmination of a painful seven-month stretch that only had occasional yet costly moments of light.

Death lineup? Meet Death March. And Death April, while we’re at it.

The Bulls brass sold everyone on a full rebuild after trading Jimmy Butler one year ago, with an unspoken promise that this draft would bear franchise-changing fruit—hence the general feeling of angst or even indifference with the solid selection of Wendell Carter Jr. and their not-so-secret affection of Chandler Hutchison.

It was why fans believe the Bulls got cold feet about trading to move up, and why they believe the Bulls weren’t being pragmatic in staying away from Michael Porter Jr.

Porter, some believe, has star written all over him given his prep ranking this time last year and the Bulls were in position to speed up this process without having to go into a painful Process.

They were desperate for a star, believing the tankathon had produced so much suffering it had to be something on the back end.

There was the fight (or the punch).

The aftermath.

The miserable 3-20 start.

The 14-7 streak that produced the audacity of hope.

The reality that 14-7 was damaging enough to the lottery chances that a 3-11 finish couldn’t rectify.

And finally, the coin flip that cost them five spots in the lottery one month ago.

So that empty feeling has less to do with Carter and Hutchison, who’ve done nothing to earn the “blah” reaction from the fan base and some media. It has everything to do with the unanswered questions over the last 82 games and lack of clarity over the three hauls from draft night last year.

It’s not that Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn underperformed individually last season, but the lack of cohesiveness due to injuries and circumstances has led to the varying thoughts.

LaVine is approaching restricted free agency and by all accounts is taking his continuing rehab in Washington very seriously.  Markkanen has added plenty of muscle since the offseason began, appearing as if he can play Michael B. Jordan’s in-ring foil in the next installation of “Creed” as Ivan Drago’s long lost son.

And despite the report about Dunn not working as hard on the floor this offseason, that would be more of a concern if this were late August, not June.

The last time they were seen together on the floor, they looked no closer to a pecking order than the day they arrived.

What we know is that they’re productive NBA players, capable of putting an individual tattoo on a game at a moment’s notice, skillful enough to take your breath away.

And for whatever reason, the expectations changed once the three displayed they could be dynamic on their own—a star needed to be anointed and groomed to go with the star they believed was coming their way after the season.

Management is fully behind Markkanen, but Paxson’s strong words about LaVine at the season-ending news conference illustrated how much it feels LaVine has to prove next season.

With his restricted free agency status looming, the Bulls’ initial offer will show how much they value him until and if he gets a better deal on the market.

And the fact the Bulls weren’t afraid to draft Trae Young while having a healthy debate about Collin Sexton on draft night has to show they have at least some skepticism about the future at point guard.

But stars—developing stars, acquired stars, drafted stars—have to do it on their own. No amount of promotion or prodding from management will validate their faith, if that’s the route the Bulls choose to go.

This has to be a meritocracy or it won’t work and, honestly, it’s time for a reality check.

All the worry about the Bulls getting back to title contention sooner rather than later seems like folks getting ahead of themselves.

The front office has taken its share of shots from media and fans, so some questioning is earned but they’re right about one thing. Rebuilds aren’t completed in a day or 12 months.

Expecting some magic potion to arrive in the form of a top draft pick isn’t going to cure what ills this roster, and it doesn’t seem likely all the cap space will result in a free agent choosing the Bulls over the usual suspects.

However, methodical building can look like complacency if not done with a sense of urgency.

And with urgency in mind, this past season was unsatisfying to say the least—heading into the next phase with two more young pieces to develop while the first three are still in the evaluation stage.